Eloise At Christmastime
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The Plaza's most famous six-year-old girl returns for Christmas in this heartwarming family film based on the best-selling children's classic ELOISE AT CHRISTMASTIME. "I absolutely love Christmas!" exclaims Eloise (Sofia Vassilieva). So, with her "mostly companion" Nanny (Julie Andrews), Eloise sets off celebrating the season in her own irrepressible style. Whether it's helping coordinate a Christmas Eve wedding because "Getting married on Christmas Eve is the most romantic thing," shopping for the entire staff of the hotel, or helping a neighbor save her home, Eloise has a "to do" list as long as her Christmas list. With an all-star cast and an ending that will warm your heart, ELOISE AT CHRISTMASTIME is bound to become an instant holiday classic.
It's tinsel and holly and "fa la la lolly" when Eloise lends her unique brand of holiday spirit to this made-for-television movie inspired by Kay Thompson's book of the same name. Sofia Vassilieva shines as ruckus-raising Eloise, who can simultaneously exasperate and exhilarate the genteel staff of New York's Plaza hotel. In the days before Christmas, Eloise learns that Rachel (Sara Topham), the daughter of Plaza owner Mr. Peabody (Victor A. Young), is returning after a long absence to marry mystery man Brooks Oliver (Rick Roberts). Eloise insists on helping with the Yuletide nuptials while plotting a matchmaking scheme of her own--to find true love for her best pal Bill (Gavin Creel), a free-spirited hotel waiter. Meanwhile, Eloise keeps busy sprinkling holiday mirth on everyone, including her beloved Nanny, played "rawther" marvelously by Julie Andrews. Whereas Eloise at the Plaza portrays the precocious 6-year-old as mostly mischievous, this film showcases her compassionate side which, together with the strong ensemble cast, offers plenty of Christmas cheer. Watch for the sizzling chemistry and musical talents of Topham and Creel. (Ages 5 and older) --Lynn Gibson
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She's pushy. She's snotty. She disregards Nanny's beautifully-accented orders at every turn. Little Eloise also mistakenly believes that since her father owns the Plaza, it's her birthright to interfere in the private lives of both staff and guests.
Now, clearly Disney transforms this nightmarish little Puck into an agent of Cupid and everything (as usual) turns out peachy keen for all involved.
Still, Eloise is a pint-sized terror. I was hoping someone would toss the midget, mouthy malcreant down one of the Plaza's many elevator shafts.
One of the less tiresome moments for the character is at the very end, when a mysterious, face-cannot-be-glimpsed female figure (decked out in a fabulous mink coat--props for the outerwear) grandly arrives. It's Eloise's mother. Who apparently only can stand being in the presence of her child two or three times of the year.
Do I feel that.
My grandmother once remarked to my mother that the oil portrait of Eloise in the Plaza lobby made her think "She must be the manager's daughter," since no other explanation could account for such an "ugly child" being so prominently displayed! Kay Thompson was a graduate of the same high school in St. Louis as my mother, and went on to achieve many wonderful, gutsy, triumphs in Hollywood as a dancer, choreographer, designer, and actress (including her role in "Funny Face" with Fred Astaire and Audrey Hebburn as the Vogue-ish magazine editor who advocated "Think pink!"). I greatly admire the multi-talented and mercurial Thompson and her inspired illustrator, Hilary Knight who did as much as Thompson to bring Eloise to life. For that matter, I very much like Eloise herself, who was by all accounts Kay Thompson's alter-ego.
The first Eloise book was subtitled "A book for precocious grownups, about a little girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel." Eloise was a child, but the books were not meant for children. Adults, especially those who've raised children of their own, understand that children are not Better, Wiser, Smarter, and Kinder than adults. But since at least "Pollyanna" if not before, Disney Studios has been churning out a constant stream of propaganda films asserting just the opoosite.
And now, Kay Thompson's wonderful playful, innocent, bratty, obnoxious, sweet Eloise has been beatified by Disney as their latest Child Sage. The problem with these lies (and all others) is that they blind people of all ages to their own shortcomings while unfairly blaming them on others.
Children are not wiser and better than adults, and they never have been, and they never will be, even if Jimmy Carter did think his 11-year-old daughter Amy had the last word to say about nuclear weapons (he was mistaken, of course). Children are typically much more cruel than adults, and if they say sweet innocent things from time to time (which is rare) it is only because they haven't lived long enough to learn better.
But they will learn better eventually; although some of them will suppress or deny their life-lessons to become seriously committed adult hypocrites. Adults who don't get this either don't have children, or don't pay attention to them as they really are, Disney Studios' party line notwithstanding.
In the books, Eloise's charm lay in her vulnerabiltity, her precociousness, her smart-aleck attitude, and her essential warmth, which asked no quarter and took no prisoners...delightful as childish qualities, but lacking in, shall we say...nuance. Disney tries to make her into an all-wise marriage counselor and social activist do-gooder. As such, Eloise is transformed from a delightful child into a *very adult* sociopathically manipulative prig, which quite ruins the film...as it also ruins real life when people go wrong like that.
This was never the character Thompson and Knight developed, who was simply a charming self-absorbed brat...and, by the way, a lot more credible as an actual child. Eloise's future as an adult has been speculated upon. Some think her a likely candidate for alcholism, drug addiction, and perhaps certain dysfunctional sexual disorders, as an adult child of an absentee mother and no father at all, raised in circumstances of artificial material luxury and moral decadence.
Such concerns are not unfocused, but since we all know that Eloise will never, and can never, get any older than 6 years of age, they are, I would suggest, unwarranted.
Meanwhile, I wish Disney Studios would either go away or do something else. Of course "children of all ages" (sanctimonious children and smug, narcissistic adults who can't or won't grow up) will eat this junk up as Disney knows very well.
But I think Kay Thompson would spin in her grave at this PC propagandistic re-working of her own special "inner child" who was so much more real than this Disney caricacture: not despite, but because of, her obvious childish failings.
On the plus side, the film's production values could not be better, and the little girl who plays Eloise is...perfect. Julie Andrews is absolutely wonderful as Nanny. The sets are great. I loved the first half hour of this film, before the Disney message (children, especially little girls, are the Master Race) became apparent. It's certainly well done! I did wonder, since there seemed to be an emphasis on making the time frame seem 1950s-like, why the featured toy store was Toys R Us instead of New York's flagship toy store, F.A.O. Schwartz?